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(en) Aotearoa (New Zealand), Auckland Anarchist #2 - Nevsky Express: Ethnology of the police state at work

Date Thu, 31 Jan 2008 11:17:21 +0200

This story begins in August 13, 2007, in rural Russia somewhere between St.
Petersburg and Moscow. A posh railroad train ‘Nevsky Express’ that offers luxury
transportation between two Russia’s biggest cities, was heading towards its
destination. Suddenly an explosion occurred; four of the train’s cars lost
contact with the track and collapsed. Over 60 people were injured during the
accident, at least half of them had to spend some time in hospital. Later the
investigators claimed that it was a miracle that greater casualties were
avoided. ---- Well, however cynical it might sound, the explosion itself was no
big surprise. Ever since 1994, when Russia started a bloody and exhausting civil
conflict with Chechnya, a tiny region in the Caucasus mountains, explosions like
this one have happened frequently.
Usually, they happened before parliamentary or presidential elections, passing
of unpopular laws, reforms aiming to strengthen state power and other means that
are likely to provoke some civil protest. The usual scenario has been this: at
first, the news showed a terrible act of terror, usually with dozens of people
injured and at least some dead. After some time a notorious group of Chechen
separatists that call themselves Riyadus Sakhiylin (Unified Shaheed Units) claim
responsibility. Then, repression of Chechens and, along with them, other nations
from the Caucasus begins. And at that time, when most of the cattle... er sorry,
I mean people, were distracted by condemning the ‘evil Chechen terrorists’ in
paroxysms of patriotic hysteria, the state would sneak in to carry out its plan.

This time, however, the things went differently. The reason can only be guessed
at: maybe it was because the leader of Riyadus Sakhiylin, the charismatic Shamil
Basaev, got accidentally killed in a conflict not long before, or maybe the
Russian state just generally changed its ways, but no claims of responsibility
were made this time. Instead of starting yet another anti-Chechen campaign, the
Russian police arrested Andrey Kalyonov and Denis Zelenyuk, two anarchists
traveling from St. Petersburg to the small town of Yaroslavl to take part in a
conference of Russian anarchists, and charged them with terrorism. Of course,
the ‘Chechen scenario’ was not completely forgotten either – the third arrested
person was Hasan Didigov, a Chechen who had no affiliation with anarchists or
any other political movement. In his case, the mere fact that he belongs to a
‘terrorist nation’ was more than enough reason for his arrest.

But back to the anarchists. It is now thought that these two comrades got in
trouble largely by accident. It’s said that they looked ‘suspicious’ with their
long beards and Palestinian scarves around their necks, that they traveled by
hitch-hiking instead of buying a ticket for a train like most people do, and
that they – oh, what a blasphemy! - refused to answer the policemen about their
plans and destination, claiming they have the right not to answer according to
the constitution. That may be so, but it’s completely obvious that their arrest
was no accident. Neither was a raid on Andrey Kalyonov’s home three days after
the arrest, during which the police broke the door and stole some of his
personal belongings. The warrant for those measures was signed by the Office of
the Procurator-General, the highest prosecution office in Russian state system.
In fact, that office has such immense authority that it often doesn’t even
bother to pretend that they have any reason for an arrest. In the case of our
comrades, the basis of the charges was that they actively took part in protests
against the war in Chechnya.

Well, what brilliant logic! If somebody actively protests against a war held by
the state to wipe a nation of terrorists from the face of the earth – and, by
the way, since 1994 a third of all Chechens have been killed by the Russian
military, and this process is still going on – they are against the war on
terror. And who can protest against war on terror but the terrorists? Oh yeah,
and of course they were also anarchists, and every child knows that anarchism
equals bombs. What else do you need to condemn them? And does anyone care that
anarchists disapprove of terror of any sort as a method, that it was not
possible for Andrey and Denis to get hold of any explosives even if they wanted
to, and finally, that dozens of witnesses say that they were in a different part
of the country on the day of the explosion?

The Russian legal system is one of the least transparent and reliable in the
world. As soon as a person gets behind bars, there’s next to no way for the
public to see what happens to them. His or her fate is completely and utterly in
hands of the state. There is no responsibility whatsoever if a prisoner dies
from pneumonia or tuberculosis, gets ‘occasionally’ stabbed by an inmate or is
shot by guard. It’s beyond the imagination, how many people get jailed and then
vanish forever among the numerous prisoners in horrible ‘work camps’ somewhere
in the endless forests of Siberia... Of course, it is to be expected that the
state would try to use this horrifyingly effective killing mechanism to crush
any political opposition.

But something went wrong this time – the ‘Nevsky Express’ case turned out to be
too big. It attracted the attention of journalists, and the names of the
arrested got reported. The response of the anarchist movement turned out to be
unexpected. Solidarity actions went on in and outside Russia - in St.
Petersburg, Moscow, Yaroslavl, Kazan, Kiev... Fundraising went on in many other
countries, including Belarus, Poland and even New Zealand. Many ordinary people
showed their solidarity and came out to protest. In Moscow and Yaroslavl
protests were scattered by the police – only to regather and continue on. Andrey
Kalyonov went on a hunger strike and kept at it for 9 days – only after that was
he allowed to see his lawyer.
I often tend to view the state system as some sort of wild animal, having basic
instincts but no human consciousness. Being attacked by the state is much like
being attacked by a lion or a pack of wolves. And what happens if the predator
finds out that it underestimated the strength of the victim? What if it suddenly
finds that the attack is turning out to be too much of a hassle? It begins to
hesitate and finally retreats, leaving the victim alone. Maybe later it will try
to attack again, if the moment seems right and the victim seems weaker than
before. But maybe it will learn to avoid attacking that type of prey and won’t
bother it in the future.

This happened with the ‘Nevsky Express’ case. Our comrades were arrested on 14th
of August with the obvious aim to imprison them. On 23rd August they were
allowed to see lawyers. By that time they were not being interrogated much any
more, because it was getting more and more obvious that it was going to be too
difficult to get a conviction. On 14th September they were released on bail, and
on 20th all the charges were dropped. Hasan Didigov was also released at that
time, but he was immediately re-arrested and charged with participation in some
other crime.

Hopefully, the Chechens and human right activists will put up some fight for
him, but his future looks unclear. As for Andrey and Denis, they are now free
and looking for compensation for the material and moral harm inflicted to them.

Well, that’s it for today’s lecture. The obvious conclusion: The state has the
mind of an alligator. It will bite off as much of your life and your freedom as
it can. And there’s hardly any prey it would attack as eagerly as us anarchists,
its sworn enemies. But strong support, mutual aid and national and international
solidarity can make us too hard a bite for it to devour.
The Auckland Anarchist (called "A Space Inside" for the first issue) is an
irregular zine of the Auckland Anarchist Collective.
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